• Mon26January 2015
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  • Get fit for free on your doorstep – a guide to trails and fitness equipment in London

    Calling all Londoners, getting fit without fleecing your bank account can be as simple as stepping outside your front door. Not only are there an abundance of different running clubs available for various levels of fitness – adidas 26rs, Good Gym, Runner’s Need, Sweatshop, Nike Run Club, athletic clubs to name but a few – there are also a number of trail adventures for runners and walkers to take advantage of, which are perfect for an endorphin boost on a cold January day.

    Winter run

    Take to the trails on a cold and frosty morning

    Here are some fantastic ways to get fit for free and take advantage of what outdoor London has to offer:

    1. Take to the trails

    Whether you head to Hampstead Heath, Bushy Park or the path based on a disused railway line called Parkland walk that joins Highgate to Finsbury Park, there are plenty of opportunities to get stuck into some serious trails.

    If you’re heading to Hampstead Heath, aim for a similar route to the cross-country races held there every year for a serious heartrate-boosting workout. Start at the Gospel Oak end of the Heath and pace yourself steadily up the hill until you reach Kenwood House, keep going west towards The Spaniards Inn. Once you hit the main road, cross over just past the famous pub and head into the woods towards the Heath extension. It’s definitely quieter in this area but just as undulating as the more popular Hampstead Heath.

    For a pretty route through the woods, start at Finsbury Park and head up the disused railway line towards Highgate. You’ll pass Alexandra Palace en route as well as a number of relics of the past.

    With off-road trails, woodland and grassy paths, it’s hardly surprising that Bushy Park is chosen as the finish line for the Royal Parks Ultra Marathon. A great place down south to get lost in your own trail adventure.

    2. Try the Capital Ring

    The Capital Ring spans some 78 miles of open space and greenery around London. From the grounds of the Art Deco Eltham Palace to the contemporary Olympic Park, there are many sights to be seen on this route around London. The information may piecemeal as the ring is split into 15 rather in-depth sections rather than a map to print out and some parts are currently undergoing works (around Manor House in Finsbury Park) but this is a trail adventure worth motivating yourself to do.

    There are signs (a white disc on a wooden post featuring a Big Ben logo and directional arrow in open spaces or large aluminium signs – featuring the walking man symbol on streets) but they may not be obvious in some places so it’s worth downloading the sections to ensure you don’t get lost.

    3. Be beside the canal

    For a true East to West experience, try the Regent’s canal, which stretches from Limehouse to Maida Vale. You’ll head past Victoria Park, Angel, the new regenerated area around King’s Cross, Camden Town, Regent’s Park and all the pretty canal boats in Little Venice. Or you could head out-of-town along the Grand Union Canal starting at Paddington Basin. For a quieter trail run along a river, try the Lea Valley Park, Starting at Springfield Park in Upper Clapton, this route heads right up past Walthamstow Marshes towards Cheshunt and Waltham Cross. It’s a pretty tranquil route that’ll take you past some of the best wildlife spots that the capital has to offer.

    4. Join an urban gym

    Want to mix your training up with a bit of strength work? Well, thanks to a number of outdoor gyms around the capital you can – for free. These outdoor gyms feature everything from cross trainers and chest press to pull-up and ski machines. To save you the bother of having to find one of these marvellous adult playgrounds, Muddy Plimsolls has pulled together a useful map of all the locations of outdoor sites http://www.muddyplimsolls.com/outdoor-fitness/. They have visited all the sites marked on the map and included descriptions of what you can expect to find at these specific locations, including what they call traditional calisthenics equipment, perfect for bodyweight exercise. Sounds pretty good for anyone wanting to be the best they can be in 2015.

    Where do you like to run? What is important to keep you motivated when training outside? Please let me know below if there is a trail that I should check out. 

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